Other Water Contaminants

Two other water contaminants are not covered by the EPA standards but are a concern in bathrooms.

Hard Water

Hard water is water with a high mineral content, mostly calcium and magnesium. Hard water usually is found in groundwater sources, such as water from wells. Both private and municipal systems can use groundwater. Hard water creates problems with mineral deposits on fixtures and plumbing, which can reduce water pressure and lead to mechanical failures. The mineral deposits can also be unsightly, particularly on darker materials. Hard water also reduces the effectiveness of cleaning products, including shampoos and soaps, and increases soap scum deposits. The end result of hard water is usually reduced performance and increased mainte­nance.

If your client lives in a community with known hard water problems, or their water is from a groundwater source, recommend testing for water hardness. Depending on the test results, discuss water-softening treatment to extend the life and appearance of their new plumbing fixtures.

iron Bacteria

Iron bacteria form a reddish brown slime that can clog pipes and fixtures. It is most likely to result when water is left standing. Typically, it is first noticed in the toilet tank or bowl. Iron bacteria are naturally occurring and more common with well water. They are an unpleasant nuisance and can cause staining. Cleaning products can treat iron bacteria but will not elimi­nate the problem.

Water Quality Testing

As part of your design preparation and household assessment (see chapter 5, "Assessing Needs"), you will want to find out if there are any water-quality concerns. If the project is a renovation, you can look in the existing bathroom(s) for evidence of water concerns such as fixture staining or hard water deposits. Check to see if the household uses water filters in the kitchen for drinking water. You may even want to draw a glass of water and evaluate how it looks and smells.

If the home is, or will be, on a municipal water system, you can assume that the water is safe for drinking, and thus for bathroom uses such as teeth brushing. If the home is on a private water system, ask your client about any testing or treatment. Regular testing is the best method to help maintain a safe water system. Most experts recommend that private water sources, such as a well, be tested annually.

More frequent tests may be recommended, depending on the water source and recent water pol­lution problems in the home or area. A financial institution may require water testing before money is lent for any construction or home improvements. The local or state health department is an excellent place to contact for further information about water testing.

Never have a water test done by a company that wants to sell you, or the homeowner, water treat­ment equipment. Contact the water testing company and describe the water problem. They can recommend the necessary tests as well as the procedure for gathering the water sample.